By Maan D’Asis Pamaran
He may not have had a big photography exhibit, but thousands of Filipinos see his handiwork on a regular basis. That’s because Nelson Ferrer Macababat Jr. is the Director of Photography of the top-rating primetime ABS-CBN telenovela Halik.
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Direk Nelson also worked on other huge television hits such as Wildflower, Nasaan Ka Nang Kailangan Kita, and Be Careful with My Heart. “I was lucky enough to be a part of the reality adventure show Amazing Race Asia season 5 as a running cameraman and I also shot a film for the Cinemalaya 2014 Film Festival titled Sundalong Kanin,” he adds.
Right off the bat, he wants to change perceptions about his industry: “People think it’s a glamorous job because we are working with celebrities, but the amount of work of the people behind the camera in making a television series is immense and there is nothing glamorous about it. It’s all hard work and dedication to the craft. People only see the final product but television production consists of sleepless nights, early call times, and pressures to finish all the sequences per day. It takes a lot of discipline and passion to hold on and finish a project.”
His photography started with taking family photos, which he still enjoys doing, as it is his way of “freezing time,” to capture precious moments. His entry into cinematography came through Neil Daza, one of the notable experts in the industry.
“Back in 2009, I was working as an assistant director and he was our cinematographer. He noticed that I was taking photos of random things on the set using my old film camera, and he randomly told me that he was having a cinematography workshop at the Mowelfund Film Institute and asked if I wanted to join. He became my mentor afterwards.”
The two fields are similar, he says. “On television, I am working with moving images and in photography I am working on stills. Some can say that there is a lot of contrast between the two but for me, the core is the same. You are working with light, shadows, and colors. At the end of the day, television work is about moving photographs.”
The best part of his job, according to him, is that there’s never a dull moment. “I am always at my feet thinking creatively on how will I make a scene more interesting through lighting and camera movement. I am always on the lookout for great lighting possibilities. I believe that this helps me improve on my photography as well.”
For both his TV work and his personal photos, he has one guiding principle: “I look for the play of light and shadows. How the light falls into my subject or how shadows consume the environment is what makes great photo opportunities. I love shooting silhouettes. I love the fact that you can just see dark figures and shapes, but it gives you something more than that. It’s soulful. The drama of a silhouette photograph strikes me every time I see one. I believe there is beauty in darkness.”